I have a few games to review in my personal queue of “essays I plan to write long after a game has been released so that any review is meaningless”: Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Control, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla.
I decided to bump Mass Effect Legendary Edition to the top of the queue because this isn’t a review. The original Mass Effect trilogy was released between 2007 and 2012; even by my relaxed standards, the game has been reviewed to death by now. This essay is a bunch of notes I made as I played Mass Effect Legendary Edition, a recently-released remaster of the entire trilogy, including any expansions.
- The current cost of Mass Effect Legendary Edition is about $60 on various consoles and the PC; that price will almost certainly go down with time. Compared to the original cost of purchasing the individual games and the expansions separately, this is an excellent deal.
- I never played the original Mass Effect before, as it never became available on the hardware I owned when it was released. Now that I’ve played it as part of the entire trilogy, much of story in the later games makes more sense; I now understand who Saren and the Sovereign were.
As always, I played all three games in Casual mode, the lowest level of difficulty. For the most part, the game wasn’t hard and I only had to consult hint guides on-line at a couple of spots for the entire trilogy.
(At the risk of mild spoilers, where I needed help was when fighting the Thresher Maws in Mass Effect, and soloing the Reaper in Mass Effect 3.)
- I did consult the hint guides extensively when considering narrative choices. One of the strengths of the Mass Effect games is a strong storyline that adjusts based on the decisions you make during the course of the game. As with many other Mass Effect players, I started to obsess over the survival of my favorite NPCs (and my romance options) and I was compelled to look up the choices that led to the outcomes I wanted.
The choices and consequences you make as you play through the trilogy can be carried over from one game to another. (You can start each game independently if you wish.) This adds to the sense of compelling narrative, since you can make a choice in game 1 that will affect events in game 3.
This also affects the type of character you play. I chose to play Shepard as a Paragon of Paragon-ness, making Paragon-omatic choices wherever I could. If I ever play through the trilogy again, I’ll be a “RenShep”, making Renegade choices throughout.
- When I played Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 nine years ago, I played a class of character with long-range combat abilities; I don’t remember the specific name. This time around I played a Vanguard, a class that gets up close and personal. It was rough going at first, but by the time I got to Mass Effect 3 I was continually mowing down the enemies with Biotic Charges.
There was a widespread negative reaction to the ending of Mass Effect 3 when it was originally released. All the narrative choices you had made so far in the game were reduced a decision between, at most, three outcomes. This was later remedied with an expansion that addressed the fan’s criticisms; at the end you still chose between three general outcomes, but there were various tweaks to the ending that depended on your earlier gameplay.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition includes the full expansion that modifies the end of the game. I didn’t try to compare to see if there were any additional potential tweaks to the ending made for this latest edition.
In Mass Effect 3, one of your goals is to accumulate an “Effective Military Strength.” The amount of EMS you gathered, multiplied by a “Readiness Rating,” determined how many options you’d be offered when it came to the final end-game decision. In the original game, the only way to be certain that you had a large enough Readiness was to also play a mobile version of the game and/or to play on-line battles with other players versus AI opponents.
In Mass Effect Legendary Edition, no such additional game play is necessary. There is no Readiness Rating. With only minor effort, I was able to accumulate almost double the EMS needed to achieve all possible outcomes from which to choose.
When the games were originally released, I played additional expansion content at or near the end of Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. I didn’t have much of a choice back then, since the expansions were released after I finished each game respectively.
Somehow, I got it stuck in my head that that was the only way to play these expansions, so when I played the additional scenarios during Mass Effect Legendary Edition I entered these scenarios after the main game. With hindsight, I wished that I’d played the expansion scenarios as soon as they became available within the games’ narratives, as they offered some benefits that would be handy later within their respective games.
In particular, the Citadel expansion within Mass Effect 3 contains an entire region that I never knew existed when I originally played the game: the Silversun Strip. This location adds some additional fun character interactions; I got a chance to dance a tango with Garrus!
Among many other “mini-games” within the Strip is a virtual combat simulator. Playing on casual difficulty, I found it easy to “break the scoreboard” by scoring more than 9999 points in a match. Playing a virtual game within a virtual game at the easiest difficulty may not sound like much to experienced gamers, but it still did my heart good to fulfill the wish of the sick girl who wanted to see Shepard defeat Elite Reapers in virtual combat.
I didn’t notice this when I played the games nine years ago, probably because I was not familiar with the discussion of female representation in video games back then: Most of the female characters in Mass Effect have figures that were clearly designed with hyper-female characteristics. It’s as if they were created by lonely male game designers. The outfits they wear emphasize their cleavage, even when fully dressed. Even EDI, a synthetic robot in Mass Effect 3, appears to be wearing high heels in some scenes.
Pretty much the only major female characters with normal-sized breasts and hips, and wearing costumes that didn’t emphasize their sexuality, were the female version of Shepard (commonly called a “FemShep”) and Tali the quarian.
It’s possible the male figures are equally idealized. If so, I can’t see it; I lack the proper perspective.
If you’ve played the Mass Effect games before, only you can decide whether it’s worth replaying the game on modern game hardware and with improved graphics. If you’ve never played the games before, $60 for roughly 200 hours of content (if you explore every nook and cranny) seems like a good deal to me.